The Protestant Reformation: Crash Course European History #6

Hi I’m John Green, this is Crash Course
European History. And today it’s time to find out what else
besides money was behind the competition between Spain and England as they fought it out on
the seas and across the globe after 1550. That’s right, today we get to talk about
religion. As you may know, the Internet is terrible
at engaging in nuanced and thoughtful conversations about religion. But if you think like our contemporary religious
discourse is bad, just wait until you get a load of 16th century Europe. INTRO
Okay, so over the centuries the Catholic church had developed a powerful structure under the
papal monarchy. Its courts, religious law, local priests,
and a huge bureaucracy of religious officials enforced its domination. And Catholic ideas of the time backed up social
and political inequality: for example, Church teachings described monarchs and noble people
as closer to God than ordinary people. It also had ideas about how the universe worked
and sought to repress those whose ideas were different, as we’ll discuss further when
we turn our attention to the Scientific Revolution. But in general, Catholic domination of so
many aspects of life produced so much resistance beginning in the early 16th century that European
Christianity eventually split into two, and then split into like 17,000 competing subgroups. It all starts with Martin Luther—a bright
young German man whose father wanted him to become a lawyer, as so many fathers do. So Martin Luther went to law school. But his real concern, even after getting his
law degree, was salvation, so he became a devout monk. Still though, he was agitated, worried about
salvation generally and specifically about Church teachings that faith and good works
were needed to achieve salvation. For Luther, doing good works seemed a bit
like bribery; like wasn’t full faith in God the important thing? This kind of thinking meant that Luther was
on his way to heresy—that is, beliefs that went against the principles of the Catholic
faith. And the heresy of-for instance-denying the
pope’s authority could get you burned at the stake, as John Hus was in 1415. Now many of Luther’s objections to Church
teachings were highly theological, concerning beliefs about, say, whether the word repent
in the Bible can be said to refer to the sacrament of penance. But one of Luther’s objections was not nearly
that obscure, and was much more relevant to ordinary people. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Okay so in Catholic doctrine there was a state
after death called Purgatory, a kind of holding place
for souls that are not pure enough to ascend to heaven but not bad enough to go to hell. Souls in purgatory can be purified by prayers
from the living, and also purified by tortuous afterlife punishment. And in 1517, the pope issued a special indulgence
to raise money to continue building the splendid St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Purchasing one of these indulgences was said
to release a soul from purgatory–so if you had a deceased friend or family member whose
sins might not have been totally cleansed through their faith and good works,
you could buy an indulgence and get them a ticket to heaven. Now this may sound to you like a naked attempt
to use people’s worry and grief as a cash grab. And Luther agreed. Like, one monk who sold indulgences literally
said, quote “Don’t you hear the voices of your dead parents and other relatives crying
out, ‘Have mercy on us, for we suffer great punishment
and pain. From this, you could release us with a few
alms. … Why do you treat us so cruelly and leave
us to suffer in the flames, when it only takes so little to save us?” I’m not here to criticize any particular
religion but that is a smidge manipulative It wasn’t only Luther who took offense to
this practice. Merchants and artisans also noted that it
seemed a lot like blackmail. Many citydwellers objected to their hard-earned
money going to support the aristocratic children of the wealthy who held high positions in
the clergy and lived in luxury without ever having to, you know, earn money. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So for Luther, salvation wasn’t something
you bought, either by good works or by purchasing indulgences. Instead he believed in salvation by faith
alone and so one should seek to fortify one’s faith. In 1517, Luther, then in his early thirties,
composed “Ninety-Five Theses” expressing questions and differing opinions on these
and many other theological issues, perhaps posting them to the door of the chapel of
Wittenberg. But in whatever form, his ideas spread. Soon, papal documents and books of canon law
were being burned by students during protests as earnest young Christian humanists vented
their anger. And Luther’s initial questioning of the
Church rapidly became rejection: “For we claim the papacy not to be the holy Church,”
Luther stated, “nor any part of it, and we are unable to cooperate with it.” This rejection of the Church as it operated
in the early sixteenth century came to be called the Reformation. Luther began to take on the entire Church
establishment. In European Catholicism at the time, priests
were the authority; THEY read the Bible and then told you what it said. But Luther argued that priests like all people
were themselves sinners, and that the only true authority was the Bible; it was, he argued,
the word of God that provided the relationship with God, not the word of priests. He believed that the hierarchy of priests,
and bishops, and cardinals, and the Pope was inherently corrupt, and that such corrupt
individuals could hardly serve as intermediaries with the divine. Sola scriptura, only the Bible or scripture,
was his motto alongside the keys to salvation: sola gratia and sola fide, only grace and
only faith. The idea of sola scriptura led to a wide-ranging
revolution, especially by boosting reading and individual study. Because suddenly, it was important not just
for scholars to learn to read, but for everyone, because the written word of God was the way
to God. Now at first, authorities didn’t see cause
for alarm, although early in 1521 the Pope did excommunicate Luther. Several months later, Luther was summoned
before representatives of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Worms, which is overwhelmingly
the easiest history term to remember because they literally called it the diet of worms. Leading the assembly in the town of Worms,
Germany was Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Oh! Did the globe open? Weird. I don’t get it? I don’t get it, it’s just a can of mixed
nuts what does this have to do with the diet of worms? Oh! Stan. Gah. Very frightening. I have a diet…of worms. That’s good stuff, Stan. Right but back to Charles V. At the time, Charles was nineteen and ruler
of Spain, the Low Countries and Duchy of Burgundy. Also, the entire Habsburg Empire, Italy, and
all the Spanish possessions in the Western Hemisphere and Southeast Asia, which–if you’ve
ever met or been a 19-year-old, you’ll know is a lot of responsibility for someone who
can’t legally drink wine in America. Although on the otherhand he does look like
he is 50 in this stained glass window of the Diet of Worms. Charles’ rulership of the Holy Roman Empire
was gained- through the votes of electors, who had selected him from other royal or noble
contenders. Among them was the elector of Saxony, Frederick
the Wise, whom Charles had bribed for his vote. Frederick was religious, but not a fan of
the papacy. And many aristocrats saw Charles as threatening
world domination because, you know, he was dominating a lot of the world. So when called to account by such a massively
powerful ruler, everyone expected that an insignificant monk like Martin Luther would
completely fold and admit his errors. But he did not: “I can do no other” he
supposedly said of maintaining his new beliefs. The Holy Roman Emperor declared him an outlaw
to be captured. But German princes took his side, and Frederick
the Wise hid and protected Luther. Why? Well that remains one of the unanswered questions
of history–maybe it was because Frederick was concerned about papal abuses, maybe because
Frederick felt Luther couldn’t get a fair trial, and maybe because he felt that Luther
and the reform movements he was leading would limit Charles’s power. Regardless, after Frederick’s death, his
brother and successor continued to protect Luther and his followers, helping in 1530
to organize the Schmalkaldic League of Protestant Princes to protect the Lutherans, which, I
mean, as names go is no Diet of Worms. On the other hand, if Marvel is looking for
a new superhero franchise how bout the Schmalkaldic League of Protestant Princes? Early in the 1520s, Luther wrote tracts outlining
his beliefs in greater detail. He also translated the New Testament of the
Bible into German–that is, the local language or vernacular instead of elite Latin. And thanks to the printing press, two hundred
thousand copies were printed in the 1520s and early 1530s and many more of his other
writings went into print. The Reformation went from being local to being
German to being a European-wide movement in large part thanks to the printing press. Meanwhile, many German princes took up the
“Lutheran” challenge to the Holy Roman Emperor. If Charles was against reform, many princes
would be for it as a way of restraining the Holy Roman Emperor’s power. Luther summoned them to defend German values
against the corruption found in Rome. And because of that, Luther is sometimes called
the source or father of German nationalism. And then, in 1525, peasants and other village
folk across southern Germany began protesting–eventually including an estimated 100,000 rioters who
sacked castles as well as religious centers. The princes and nobility crushed them–they
could get behind religious reform, but not mass soci al change. And Luther agreed, slamming the rioters in
Against the Rioting Peasants, soon reprinted with the new sensationalist title– Against
the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants. So, you know, Luther favored some reform,
but not, like, equal rights for peasants reform. All the while, the reform movement spread—and
as it did, it developed offspring. Already in 1519, Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss priest,
began preaching reform in Zurich. He supported Luther’s main criticisms of
the papacy, but he disagreed on the Eucharist, or communion, a ritual in which worshipers
eat bread and drink wine. Or don’t. Depending on your perspective. Catholic doctrine held that through the miracle
of transubstantiation, the bread and wine literally became the body and blood of Jesus
Christ; Luther argued for something called consubstantiation, in which the bread and
wine are still bread and wine, yet also the body and blood of Christ. And Zwingli believed Communion only to be
a symbolic ritual, in which the bread and wine were just bread and wine. I know this will seem to many of you like
an extremely obscure theological argument that can’t possibly have been important,
but it was–these theological questions were not just a matter of life and death; they
were a matter of eternal life and death. Zwingli’s preachings eventually turned some
of his followers to a more radical interpretation of Christianity. These people were called Anabaptists, they
held that faith was a matter of individual thought and free will. So only a thinking adult could knowingly participate
in Christian faith enough to accept Jesus as lord and savior. Sp they argued that baptism, a cleansing ritual
that had long been performed on infants, should only be available to adults who’ve chosen
to accept Jesus as savior. [[TV: Luther Married]] And as reformers increased
in number and variety, Luther did something else that was really shocking: in 1525, he
got married, even though Catholic clergy were supposed to be celibate. Luther preached that God made two sexes to
procreate and that the clergy’s celibacy was against the divine plan. So he married Katharina von Bora, a literate
young woman who had been in a convent since the age of five, and this was controversial
even among his supporters. One of Luther’s best friends and admirers
lamented that by marrying, Luther “revels and compromises his good reputation precisely
at a time when Germany stands in need of his spirit and authority.” But Luther wrote a lot about marriage, and
sermonized about it too for the princes, nobility, and his growing number of followers. One of these “lectures” refers to the
story of Adam and Eve as written about in the book of Genesis in the Bible: “Moreover
this designation [woman] carries with it a wonderful and pleasing description of marriage,
in which, as the jurist says, the wife shines by reason of her husband’s rays.” “Whatever the husband has, this the wife
has and possesses in its entirety. . . .the result is that the husband differs
from the wife in no respect than in sex…” This certainly wasn’t equality as we now
understand it, what with the wife shining by reason of her husband’s rays, but the
notion of equity of marital property was heresy piled on top of the heresy of clergy marrying. [[TV: An Appropriate Battle]] All of this
led to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V deciding to put down the pesky Protestant princes of
the Schmalkaldic League once and for all in 1546 and 1547 and he almost did so. He had vast resources at his disposal, including
tough soldiers from the Spanish armies, who defeated the League and captured some leading
Protestant princes. And Catholicism appeared to be making a comeback. But then in 1552, the League suddenly took
to the field again, roundly defeating the imperial forces. [[TV: Peace of Augsburg]] In 1555, the Peace
of Augsburg decreed that whoever ruled would determine the religion of his territory. [[TV Window]] And so communities became Catholic
or Protestant based on the religion of their prince. Phew. We really dodged a religious war bullet–nope
no. The Reformation story was not over. Luther had called Church corruption a “horrid
abomination” and its defenders “excrements and vermin”; and those who now entered this
titanic religious struggle in other parts of Europe were just as vehement, even though
following different plots. The finer points of theology continued to
divide people, as did the politics of religion and overseas empire. In short, more bloodshed to follow. We’ll take that up next time. Thanks for watching.


  1. crash course should make a separate channel (or new series) about more hands on things like car mechanics, plumbing, electric, etc.

  2. Disappointed to see yet another video ignoring the schism and pretending that the Catholic church is the only version of Christianity that ever existed before Luther

  3. You correctly condemn the practice of selling indulgences, which was reformed INSIDE the Church also, but you fail to mention some extremely relevant facts. Martin Luther added the word "alone" to the letter of Paul to the Romans. It was never there. Further, seeing the fruits of his own actions, he deeply regretted what he had done. He wanted reform to happen within mother church. He was a priest himself after all. He did not want the splintering into 10s of 1000s of denominations. Before the schism between Orthodox and Latin Rite, there was only one church for the first millenia of Christianity. Luther did not want division. He wanted reform and unity. Something actually accomplished by other reformers that remained faithful to Catholicism.

  4. This is good but I think it misses an important point and perspective on indulgences, and certainly has a bias to a Anglo Protestant view of the History.

    The central underlying claim of indulgence was not that it would save, but that it would hasten the already saved. And not that it was a ticket or bribe, but an act of charity. Indulgences were not just financial in nature, though if course by that period, and in that case they explicitly and specifically were, leading to the questions discussed.

    It also is wrong to present every seller of indulgences as the worst of them, just as it would be wrong to whitewash indulgence selling by only looking at pre corruption selling, but, that's more a footnote and fair enough to leave out in a short video like this. It certainly is correct to say that the selling of indulgences fueled the reformation to a significant extent.

  5. I do not think that Lutheran s would have been successful if it had not been for King Henry the 8th getting divorced.

  6. This engages in some wild and irresponsible generalisations about Catholic activities during the Reformation. I'm very disappointed.

  7. Also in the Christian belief STILL argues about Eucharist and communion… and baptism if it should be done to an infant. It was literally discussed in my Sunday school class last week….

  8. The Catholic Church has never been anything but a disgusting criminal cabal and a circle of pedophiles and con artists abusing and oppressing the poor and the intelligent

  9. I'm sure Christianity and conservative values hater John Green will handle this in a balanced and nuanced manner.

  10. I really love your history crash course. It reminds me of my love for history.

    Why do people hate history so much? And maths? Maths is awesome! But so is history. History kicks a**

  11. John has really matured from is early videos. He doesn’t sugar coat things, doesn’t add a touch liberal bias and has a more serious tone to his videos.

  12. You didn't say that the protestant church won the propaganda war because they knew how to use cartoons to destroy catholic church's reputation. The catholic church use fewer cartoons and panflets to explain why Luther was wrong and the greed of the german prices. You should add the anti-semitic comments of Luther about the jews that may help to understand the violent development of german nationalism. You should say that the Battle of Mühlberg the biggest chunk of the "Spanish Army" were 16000 german soldiers. Spain won that battle with the support of a protestant duke, Maurice, Elector of Saxony.

  13. there is no hell, for living and heaven sake. let forever living in and communication guides them, forever changes, end one life start another on infinite earths and lead to modern democracy.

  14. there is no money that can earn salvation but there needs a lot of power and money to make a better life on earth. almost magic like power, the machine can produce all living stuff we need, machine to do our jobs, so we free from survival only live on living good, or we contain in the fate of humanity always work to live and help each other.

  15. This paints a wildly inaccurate picture of the Theological concepts at hand, yet I am not surprised, nor should I be, given the general socially liberal agenda that John Green subscribes to.

  16. 12:30 It looks like Luther is rocking out yet the children look to be reverently singing a religious hymn, the mother is none too impressed but the guy behind Luther seems to be thoroughly enjoying the whole thing.

  17. Such a hero to me! Started movements on: Finding god yourself, educating YOURSELF! By reading the bible, and that love and sex is a right given to all man even priests

  18. I totally thought the can said king, that it was a can of nuts, and that you were going to make a pun announcing that the king is nuts.

    Edit: I got two out of three right lol

  19. I'm a born again evangelical Christian who never knew much about Catholicism until very recently, and oh my goodness. The more I learn, the more I am absolutely, utterly horrified by it. Talk about unbiblical. I still cannot believe they believe what they do; I'm just like, do they even believe the Bible? And catholics have all these ready, pat explanations that they think solves everything when challenged by non-catholics…"we're not really praying to Mary, we're just asking her to intercede for us"…"we don't worship Mary, we just honor her"…oh really? well not sure what 'Hail Mary' is then, and what all those statues (graven images) are about; sure seems like worship to me…And that's just the tip of the iceberg I am discovering.Their deception is so much deeper than I ever imagined it could be; very sad. I heard someone say years ago that the Catholic church is the biggest cult in the world, and I sure believe that now more than ever.

  20. 1) Luther wasnt the first to produce a German Bible there where over 18 difrent ones be for him and the Catholic Church didn't care.
    2) the Pope did in fact stop the sale of indulgences and meny of what Luther cited in his 95 .
    3) Luther was ran out of the Church he did not leave on his own accord.
    4) in the 4 years of the prod. Refermation in witch Luther took part of 40000 died. Way more than the 4000 to 6000 in the Spanish Inqustion.
    5) Luther tride to get rid of the books of James, and Revalations becouse they conflited with his teachings.

  21. *Just to clarify something for a lot of people in the comment section who seem confused – *

    When John says "Christianity split from two groups into many different sects" he is first referring to the original split that happened before Luther in Christianity, and then he transitions into what Martin Luther brought about, which was Christianity splitting into many sects. But he does acknowledge that before Marthin Luther there was already two main sects of Christianity that being Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox which came about becomes of the Great Schism in 1054 long before Martin Luther. What Martin Luther did was split Christianity even further by kick-starting the creation of many different Protestant groups who now (because of his actions) felt they had the right to be their own thing separate from the Roman Catholic church. When he says there were two groups he is not referring to Catholicism and Protestants, because the term "Protestant" is a catch-all term that refers to all the denominations that came about because of the Protestant Reformation, so being "Protestant" is not in it of itself a sect in Christianity, but refers to many sects that came from Martin Luther's actions. This is why when he says "Christianity split from two groups (Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox) into many different sects. (these would be the Protestant)"

    Hopefully, this explanation helps the people who thought he forgot about Eastern Orthodox, because he did not, he just did not refer to it by name.

  22. its diet (di-et) not diet(die-et) a diet (di-et) is meetings of nobility or millitary leaders, a diet(die-et) is a eating plan to reduce weight.

  23. Haha, this is so funny to listen to, when Schmalkalden is like a stone throw away from you. 😉
    I had no idea John Green was doing Crash Course History again and I gotta say, I'm pleasantly surprised! He talks so much more relaxed and is all in all so much more chill and likeable! 🙂 I like his old videos too, they're great, but the whole presentation of the information is much better here!
    That was a great video and Martin Luther is one important and intriguing figure to this day.
    So, in that spirit – "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders."

  24. wake up Christians Jesus is a messenger of God.he is human like you all and he did not die .and he is coming back to fight for humanity, peace on you all

  25. Now, dont you talk about the Lutheran Inquisition or the Anglican Inquisition (much worse than the Spanish inquisition)?

  26. I miss the more silly version of crash course 😞 especially the “young version of John Greene” LoL

  27. Luther also penned a screed called On the Jews and their lies. He attempted to convert Jews through argument but it didn't work. Since he was so insulted by their ignoring him, he penned a book that so cursed the Jews that it was one of the Nazis favorite books.

  28. It’s nice to get a fuller accounting of Martin Luther, his actions, and the ripples made across Europe. My confirmation class only covered about 10% of the history you shared in 15 minutes, but took 12 sessions to impart it. This probably explains the indoctrination and napping.

  29. What's really sad about the back-and-forth between Catholics and Protestants, both historic and modern, is that it's often used by those in power as excuses to keep or further their own political strength and careers, without any regard for religion. And as for the theological debates themselves, they're cases of not being able to see the forest for the trees. People can get so caught up in the fine details and the need to be right that they're completely distracted from following Jesus' teachings of simply abiding by the golden rule. I thought that as a kid raised in the Episcopal church and I still think it now as an eclectic Pagan. Everybody just follow whatever spiritual path speaks to you and leave others to do the same, or, as it's often phrased in the witchcraft community, "An' it harm none, do what you will." Blessed be. + )O(

  30. 100 years more of purgatory for you pink ! heu i meant punk ! That"ll teach ya !

    In purgatory they only play Celine Dion Tunes !! enjoy Sucka !

  31. Luther was all about the soul that's why he didny care abiut the peasant revolts. Especially when the bible says to obey your master and to follow the laws of the day. Unless they are against GOD which a king isnt. That's just a political system not religion

  32. I grew up in the Swiss protestant church and "It's a symbol" is a great description of the entirety of the religious teaching I got.

  33. So glad to see John back in the seat! As a teacher of world history, I do not know what we would do if we were forced to show those boring videos that makes us all go to sleep. John puts the cool back in learning history. Keep up the good work!

  34. I think all protestants are heretics and are going to hell…repent and return to the 1 true church: Roman Catholic.

  35. Any army that goes into the field, asking god to give them victory (that is virtually every European, and then American, army in the last 1500 years), marches for that god, and every drop of blood that is spilled is accountable to that god. Sooo much blood in the name of a god of love, and that's not even counting openly religious bloodshed.
    If there is to be an apocalypse, it is the Christians that will bring it.

  36. Tbh Luther didn’t do much to reform the Church. Pope Pius V, Ignatius of Loyola, men like these were good reformers. Martin Luther just divided the Church and brought mass heresy and confusion :/

    Edit: Furthermore, the selling of indulgence is actually a condemned practice. It was fell under the sin of Simoney.

  37. Totally agree with the criticisms against the sell of indulgences. Just seemed like a cheap way to earn money.
    (I'm quite the devout Catholic by the way so i'm not hating on the Papacy, It's just that I critize it because I care about what happened.)

  38. Kind of dissapointing that no mention of Hussites wars and Anabaptist war was mentioned, both super interesting stories.

  39. For those interested in some of the more bonkers details behind what went on with Anabaptists and specifically the Munster rebellion, I highly recommend Dan Carlin's Hardcore History episode 48. It's a 6 hour long podcast but it's fantastic.

  40. It’s not a great mystery as to why German princes took Luther in, it was most likely because Luther’s beliefs included that the rulers of the land shall choose the religion, making those German princes more likely to back Protestantism as it gives those princes more power than the papacy.

  41. Jesus said “you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.” He didn’t say you are Peter and you will write a book. Jesus did not come to write a book, he came to found a Church, and the only church that goes back to the Apostles is the Catholic Church. The church is based on scripture and the traditions past down from the Apostles. The writings of the early church were not agreed upon or assembled into a book until the year 400 by the Catholic Church.

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